As the omicron variant continues to increase COVID cases across the U.S., the Minot Police Department is starting to feel the bite of the virus.
Now, police are doubling their efforts in order to do their jobs.
The MPD requires 85 sworn personnel to operate fully and that includes patrol and dispatch. But, in the last few weeks, that number has fallen short due to COVID-19, according to Police Chief John Klug.
“Starting last Monday we’ve had I think four or five people tested positive and we’ve had at least one every day since then,” said Klug.
As of Wednesday, about 13 staff at the department, with a majority of them being police officers, are out with COVID.
For a department already dealing with a staff shortage, this further worsens their manpower problems but it is by no means a reflection of the quality of service the department provides, according to Klug.
“We’ve had to make some adjustments, we’ve had to shift some people around and pay some overtime but to us, it’s important to maintain the level of protection that we normally provide and we’ve been able to do that so far,” Klug said.
In order to keep the department safe, masks and other PPE are required for officers in the building and when interacting with the public.
Klug also appeals to the public to protect themselves from the virus in order to protect officers they come into contact with.
“I don’t think anyone will want to see the police department shut down because we just don’t have any employees so we have to take responsibility for ourselves,” he said.
Currently, the PD has at least nine unfilled positions including a K-9 officer and efforts are underway to fill some positions but that will take some time.
For example, the department is now seeking funds to help it get that additional K-9 officer to help in the narcotics unit.
“The amount of narcotics that they have helped us find and they’ve helped us, they do tracking, we’ve tracked missing people, we’ve tracked suspects, we’ve found weapons that have been used in crimes so they’re a very useful tool,” recalled Klug.
Right now there are two K-9 officers after a third retired last year.
Of the two, one is assigned to explosives and the other narcotics. Klug says a second narcotics K-9 officer is needed especially at this time when the area is dealing with a lot of narcotics cases.
Klug adds he hopes they’ll be able to raise& 80,000 for the K-9’s training, care and handling. The department has until March to get it all done.
If you would like to donate toward the new K-9 officer, you may contact the department at 701-852-0111 for details.